Sunday, August 31, 2008

Update 2.0

Well, Merdeka Day slipped by almost unnoticed. It's certainly been a subdued affair compared to the half-century extravaganza we had last year. I confess to almost forgetting about it myself. Come to think of it, it's just occurred to me that I didn't meet or even talk to a single Malaysian today! :(

I did however, have a good chat with a Zimbabwean student and a Japanese researcher this evening. I was glad of the opportunity to encourage one, even if feebly, to not leave his life unexamined, to partially quote Socrates, and to use his time in studentdom to think about what being a Christian means, on the one hand. On the other, I had an enjoyable discussion with this lovely Japanese guy and God was gracious that we could naturally talk a little about Christianity during the course of the conversation and that he was interested to know more.

Still, for those of you who might think my life consists of nothing more than deep chats and reading theological books, let me now immediately disabuse you of such romantic notions! :-p Over the course of the week, I've done some weeding and hoeing, learnt about food hygiene, and did more cleaning up. I do find that I can barely muster up any enthusiasm to write anything at the end of the day.

Back to the Merdeka theme, just thought some of you might be interested in Project Malaysia, a forum set up by Malik Imtiaz. I haven't browsed it much, but it looks like it's worth a look. (HT:Rocky Bru)

Will keep on trying to blog, and not reduce it to weekly updates. Thank you, my 6 or 7 patient readers.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Guglielmucci tragedy

I read with great sadness the tragic story of Mike Guglielmucci, having only heard about it thanks to Tim's post/links. Like it or not, Hillsong and Planetshakers are hugely influential, and I suppose you could even say they do more to shape the underlying beliefs and worldview of Christians around the world (including Malaysia) through their songs than most Bible teachers could ever hope to achieve. I had actually watched Guglielmucci tell the story of his song and the oxygen-tank performance a month or two back, and while frankly, I was hesitant about the song itself, I had no reason to doubt the authenticity and force of his testimony. In truth, I was quite moved myself. I suppose, to quote inexactly from J.I Packer, I simply thought that his experience was better than his theology.

And it wasn't.

And I do feel for many young people who are shaken by this turn of events. I saw comments along the lines of "How could such a song of truth come from such a pack of lies?" and "I'm feeling so hurt right now, this is a huge act of betrayal that my friends and I aren't sure we can recover from." And though sin is sin and we shouldn't downplay it, I do have some sympathy for Guglielmucci as well. I can see how his deception of others could conceivably have started with self-deception. I am willing to believe he truly wanted healing, just not from cancer; he truly wanted to will himself to trust in God, but the very act of doing so prevented him from doing so. And that we're all capable of self-deception as well. Nonetheless, people are right to question how this was all concealed from everyone, including his own family; the so-called "healings"; etc.

I'm sure there's more than enough commentary flying around and I don't want to add words unnecessarily. Mark Sayers, whom Tim linked to, has an excellent reflection, as does Eugene Cho. I hope people affected will benefit from reading both of them. I am a bit of a wimp, and partly because Hillsong was a big part of my youth and that many of my friends are part of the particular Hillsong/Planetshakers stream of charismatic Christianity, I have been loathe to critique them publicly here on my blog, but maybe this will help people reflect more critically on the shortcomings of that tradition.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

This week, briefly

I know - some of you want an update! This is the first time I've had internet for a week. It was quite nice to take a media fast, as it were, actually. I went one week with no internet, no TV, no papers, and not even radio, unless you count my new flatmate's classical collection. (I've been feeling like such a philistine while he rhapsodises about Rachmaninov and Vaughan Williams; I was relieved to see Miles Davis in his collection). So I've had no idea what's been happening in Beijing - I gather Usain Bolt actually broke Michael Johnson's record? - or Permatang Pauh or even London.

Still, it's not every week I have to dress as a mouse or have my face splattered with shaving foam and cheeseballs. I've been doing a holiday club/Vacation Bible School. I always think children's work is actually quite difficult, and I was very nervous, but got through this week alright, and had some fun along the way. There were both kids from Christian and non-Christian families. I played 'supersub', which basically means that instead of being a group leader, I slotted in wherever I was needed, eg. today one of the leaders was ill and so I basically took over his role. The downside to that though is that sometimes it would have been nicer to have a more defined, fixed role as there were times throughout where I felt a little on the edge not knowing where I was going to be used.

One thing that struck me was that even something like children's work, which might rank low on the list of what we consider as "gospel ministry", was treated with nothing but respect throughout. Each day all the leaders were fed from God's word as we listened to a mini-exposition (about 10 minutes) of 2 Corinthians 4 before we broke off to pray, and the effort put in by people to really try to engage with the kids was great to see.

Anyway, that's it for me from now. I've got the weekend off, and then I get ready for work proper on Wednesday. I'm still trying also to figure out my place in the scheme of things! Btw, I was originally planning to take a blogging sabbatical, but I've sort of already taken one. I might not post as regularly though, but that's a good thing actually. I can get quite addicted to the Net and it would be good not to be too wedded to it.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wordsmiths: The farthest thunder that I heard

I haven't yet featured Emily Dickinson as a wordsmith, which is quite something considering I find her a fascinating poet. Time to rectify that as I think on "life's reverberation"!

[Poem 109]
The Farthest thunder that I heard
Was nearer than the sky,
And rumbles still, though torrid noons
Have lain their missiles by.
The lightning that preceded it
Struck no one but myself,
But I would not exchange the bolt
For all the rest of life.
Indebtedness to oxygen
The chemist may repay,
But not the obligation
To electricity.
It founds the homes and decks the days,
And every clamor bright
Is but the gleam concomitant
Of that waylaying light.
The thought is quiet as a flake,—
A crash without a sound;
How life’s reverberation
Its explanation found!

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'Charismatic' links

Just a quick couple of links.

Interview with Simon Chan on Asian Pentecostalism. Simon Chan teaches systematic theology at Trinity Theological College Singapore and is himself a Pentecostal.

Maurice McCracken has some nice things to say about charismatics, and where they differ with non-"caros".

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The wind blows wherever it pleases...

Some of you might remember my friend L, whom I got to share my life with for a little while. I miss his great cooking! You might remember me reading the Bible regularly with him and getting to share the gospel. I share a little bit about that here. He's now back in his home country, and I hope and believe, still thinking through Christianity.

Another friend I've made more recently is a guy I'll call HH. HH has already been thinking about Christianity and reading the Bible even before he came to England. He started off based in Oxford at a language school, where he ran into some Christians, including the ones who just might be my future boss and colleague at a certain church where I'll soon be at! They showed him great hospitality and also read the Bible with him. He then moved to London to go to another language school here, where he happened to run into another person who happened to have Oxford ties. Er, that would be me. I got to know him a bit, more formally as he came to the evangelistic Bible studies I was co-leading, and as we chatted and spent a little bit of time outside formal settings. I wasn't the only one, of course; Christians who could speak his language would immediately have some advantages over me, and they could engage with him at a level I couldn't possibly hope to attain. But HH and I got along well, which was easy since he was quite a likable guy anyway, and hopefully continued to be a friend and witness. I remember in particular the one night when he talked honestly about his problem of anxiety attacks and me trying to think through how to help him as best as I could specifically as a Christian.

There was no doubt God was working in his life. He couldn't stop bumping into Christians! Last night, as we were both going to be going our separate ways soon, he to Bristol to start a Masters, me to Oxford, I gave him this book, which I hoped might be of some use to him - I even wrote a message in it in which I express hope that the book might a stepping stone in which he would get to know and trust Jesus for himself.

Tonight, another friend invited HH and me over for dinner. On his way here, HH said he had some good news. I thought, "Maybe he's bringing more food!" (Yes, I really did think that! I'm obviously Malaysian). Obviously you readers can see where I'm going much better than I did. I was caught flat-footed when he announced, unambiguously, that after a long chat with yet another Christian, that he had now put his faith in Jesus! Didn't see that coming at all. In fact, he thought that we would have twigged something by now and had, rather hilariously, expected us to have some sort of long speech prepared to tell him how to live as a new Christian. We sort of stumbled our way thru what were some of the things to expect as a Christian, and some of the privileges as well, and a little bit on the place of doubt in the Christian life and how to break the news to his family.

But it's brilliant news to see God at work regenerating those he has called. I know this doesn't quite make sense - but I always feel astonished when somebody I know actually decides to be a Christian, as in "really? We didn't put him off it? So he actually believes the Bible?" (I know, somewhat paradoxical in light of my recent blog posts on Scripture as well!) But Jesus surely knows what he's talking about when he says: "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." (John 3:8)

Anyway, yes, just thought I'll share.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

The wrap

copyright Michael KennaHurrah for the Beeb for enabling me to at least follow some of the Olympics live on their website. The early story to have caught the imagination so far is following Michael Phelps on his quest for the highest gold-medal haul in history. I've managed to follow some badminton too, although I haven't seen any of the Malaysians in action.

However, while the Olympics and its emphasis on harmony show how the world ought to be, the war currently raging in Georgia sadly reminds us of how the world currently is. War and peace starkly juxtaposed, as the Guardian reminded us in its headline on Saturday. They've got a brief Q&A on the war, and Ian Traynor sets it in context.

The Economist has a feature on religious conversion, and Malaysia gets discussed a little bit, unsurprisingly, given that this is still a touchy issue as evidenced by the controversy over the Bar Council forum.

Paternoster editor and author of Worshipping Trinity Robin Parry now has a blog.

Although JollyBlogger tends to fly more under the radar these days, he's still a very good read. There's a very insightful post pondering on the question 'How do you maintain your desire for God?' with some perhaps surprising observations. There's also excellent book reviews of Do I know God? from Tullian Tchvidjian and Roger Olson's Arminian Theology.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing the globe today, and which ones should command our attention the most, especially from a cost-effective viewpoint? The Copenhagen Consensus gathered a team of economists to probe this very question. Here's a brief summary of their findings - Defeating Global Poverty: Bang for the Buck.

Don't know how many people saw this in CT a few weeks ago: The 30 Day Leviticus Challenge. In a nutshell, a church decided to try an experiment whereby they live out the laws of Leviticus as much as they can for a month. Fascinating, although it also begs the question of where exactly Levitical laws fit into the lives of Christians, post-Jesus, today.

Are C.S Lewis, JK Rowling and Philip Pullman overrated?

Tim Keller on theological training.

Sorry, couldn't resist. Going gaga over Emirates' new Airbus A380s.

Theo Walcott interview. Seems like a level-headed guy in the mold of Michael Owen.

The Wrap wraps up with some stunning pictures, speaking of haunting desolation. Silent World by Michael Kenna. The picture at the start of this post belongs to him.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

ESV Literary Study Bible

ESV Literary Study BibleI'm chuffed. As a graduation/leaving gift, my brother was kind enough to play genie and grant me my wish of an ESV Literary Study Bible. You know, kind of like a golden handshake to get rid of the dross. Hey, wait a minute...

I've only personally owned 3 Bibles in my life, all of them NIV, although there are a few other Bibles lying around at home in Malaysia. The first Bible I've ever owned was a gift from my aunt when I was about 10. It was called the Adventure Study Bible or something like that - basically an NIV packaged for children. Do some of you (EYMers) remember it? It only occurred to me when I was 15 and part of the youth group for 3 years that maybe I should be embarrassed at carrying a children's Bible around. My sister then gave me a nice NIV pocket red-letter Bible, which I still have, looking a little worse for wear! When I went up to university, I thought it might be a good idea to invest in a study Bible, if only because I needed a sturdier Bible with bigger font, and so I bought the NIV Study Bible based on the strength of its reputation.

I've only been using the ESV more regularly in the last 2 1/2 years, not least because my church preaches using that translation. It's on the "essentially literal" side of the translation spectrum. If we were to put the NIV in the middle of this continuum, than the ESV is my favourite translation on the literal side, while I quite like the NLT on the more dynamic side. I use it a lot in preparing for Bible studies. This past couple of months, when I was co-leading on Colossians, I pretty much did all my text work in the ESV, although the studies themselves were done using the NIV, and I really enjoyed using the ESV then. Although I guess there's not much difference between the two in that particular book. It can still be a little clunky in places. I remember a phrasing in 1 John - I don't remember what it was - which was quite awkward; I couldn't figure it out until the NIV translation clarified it for me.

I've been depending on Bible Gateway whenever I use the ESV. One of the best things to do in prepping for a Bible study, I find, first modelled to me by the IFES worker at university, was to print out the Bible passage in question sans section headings and then scribble over it. It allows you to think through the text in question for yourself with minimal distraction. I believe it was sometimes more formally called "Encounter the Manuscript" or something along those lines.

Which brings me back to the ESV Literary Study Bible. Much like the manuscript method, ts appeal to me lies in the fact that it is designed to be a "reader's Bible". I like that it's single-column, for a start, which if nothing else, would certainly be refreshing on eyes more used to the traditional 2-column format! It also eliminates section headings. And as the reviewer noted, to his disappointment, it isn't a traditional study Bible (maybe he missed the literary in the title). Rather, its unique focus is on the literary features of the biblical text and how that might aid in our understanding. So the introduction to each biblical book focuses on things like its dominant motifs, literary concepts, and the place of each book in the master story of the Bible. Also, unlike most study Bibles, which tend to have study notes at the bottom of each page which could unwittingly distract you from reading the Bible for yourself (especially if they concentrate on things behind the text such as, for eg., archaelogy), they instead offer a short commentary before each pericope with some suggestions of what to look out for, but this is neither comprehensive nor does it have the totalizing (to borrow postmodern terminology!) feel of some study notes; instead, they simply suggest a way into the text without foreclosing other angles. Another feature I really like. Have a look at the sample page to see what I'm talking about.

So yes, I am quite enthusiastic about it. I did initially wonder if I should wait till the ESV Study Bible comes out later this year, but in the end, I decided what I simply wanted was an ESV to read rather than another study Bible, despite the latter's overwhelming number of notes, maps, articles and whatnot. I am a bit ambivalent about the lack of a cross-referencing system in the ESV Literary Study Bible, which means it's good at keeping you focused on the text at hand, but could potentially be frustrating since other parts of Scripture can sometimes illuminate the portion you're reading, but then, hey, that's what my NIV Study Bible is there for. The other thing I'm a bit disappointed by is the paper quality, which is subpar. I can understand wanting to keep production costs down, but it's of a sufficiently low standard to warrant some comment.

I'm looking fwd to using this Bible more, as many have already done to their profit. The Internet Monk gives 10 reasons why he loves it. On a final note, we in the English-speaking world have been hugely blessed by the many translations we have at our disposal, and I rather more resources be allocated to worthy organisations like Wycliffe Bible Translators. The last thing we need is yet another English translation!

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Teaching and learning

I like reading Scot McKnight mainly for his book discussions. One of the books he's looking at is What the Best College Teachers Do. Chp 2 was intriguing. I guess I do have a bit of the teacher in me, and in any case, there's some interesting stuff about teaching and learning.

Main point: we learn in context.

1. Knowledge is constructed, not received: as we put things together on the basis of experience, so do students. So, teaching is helping students construct models on the basis of what they already know.

2. Mental models change slowly: good teachers create environments where change can take place progressively. Facts need to be learned as a student learns to use those facts.

3. Questions are crucial: good teachers stimulate students to discover and ask and answer their own questions. Our questions, we must remember, are not always the questions of others. Often our questions are not theirs!

4. Caring is crucial: good teachers know students must care about the discipline if they want those students to develop and grow and learn. Good teachers get students to care about the discipline.

Good teachers know the history of their discipline - my tutor used to encourage us to think critically about how our discipline evolved and why our syllabus is structured the way it is.

Good q to ask: Are we teaching a "subject" to students or teaching "students" a subject?

Good stuff not just in classroom contexts but in personal work and helping each other think through our respective worldviews.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Is the Bible the Word of God? (Part 4)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

And all this works out in life, how?
Tim asks, what is the purpose of the Bible? For Mat, the Bible is much stronger "if we accept that God did not write it". I will have to disagree strongly with Mat here. The poet and writer Thomas Hardy professed Christianity for a time, but he abandoned the faith in despair because to him, God was mute. He was distant from his world. We find this theme throughout his books and poems. Tess of D’Urbervilles, possibly his most famous book, is a profoundly sad one. Tess suffers misfortune after misfortune before meeting a tragic end. Hardy’s worldview comes through bright and clear: "God’s not in his heaven, / All’s wrong with the world".

But the Bible is testimony to that amazing truth: God speaks! The beginning of the Bible assumes the speech of God; he speaks creation into being. Or according to Psalm 33:6: "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth." God speaks, it is the idols who are dumb. More than that, God promises! He makes a covenant with Abraham and renews it with Israel, that He will be their God, and they will be his people (eg. Ezekiel 37:27). Most amazingly, the Word was made flesh! All God’s promises are found in Christ. Jesus says that whoever has seen him has seen the Father, in other words, God himself. The Message has a nice rendition of Hebrews 1:1-3:

"Going through a long line of prophets, God has been addressing our ancestors in different ways for centuries. Recently he spoke to us directly through his Son. By his Son, God created the world in the beginning, and it will all belong to the Son at the end. This Son perfectly mirrors God, and is stamped with God's nature. He holds everything together by what he says—powerful words!"
Barthians and evangelicals agree that Scripture points away from itself to Christ. But conservative evangelicals also believe that the Bible does point away from itself to God, our Saviour-King, who nonetheless speaks to us through the words of Scripture. We know Jesus because Scripture itself gives us access to him, thus, there is no neat separation between the incarnate Word and the written Word. Neither can the Bible be interpreted properly apart from a living faith in Christ. Just as my words are distinct, yet not separate from me, so the analogy (I think!) applies here too. Our view of God impacts our view of Scripture and vice versa.

But Scripture is not there merely to impart information, but as an instrument in our transformation. "And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe" (1 Thessalonians 2:13). God’s word is active in the transforming of lives. It reminds us of God’s character and his trustworthiness. It gives us hope in a world of suffering. It gives us the big story, of creation defiled, redeemed, and one day restored to its full glory. Only if the Bible is Word of God can we be confident of this narrative.

Nicky Chiswell's song, Where else have to go?, captures it well:

We have come to see,
To know and understand
Things the very angels long to see.
God, who owes us nothing,
Has spoken to us all.
Christ the word of God Himself has been

Where else have we to go,
When you alone have words
Of eternal life?

Come all you who labour,
You who are weighed down,
You who thirst and hunger for the right,
There is truth and meaning,
Mercy , rest and hope.
True salvation comes through Jesus Christ
(audio sample, track 14)

In the Christian life, it will ultimately be the living and enduring word of God is that which sustains us.

Misc. observations
One of the saddest posts I read fairly recently is this one: Christian students struggle with Christianity. As I reflect on Mat and Tim’s post, it does seem as if mainstream evangelicalism has failed its young people on this one. The emerging and Reformed critiques are united on this front: contemporary (Western) Christian culture is overly shallow and consumeristic. There are times when I get very exasperated with McLaren et al. because it seems to me that his depictions of evangelicalism are complete caricatures, but there are other times when it does seem to me that he is spot on in his diagnosis, if not his treatment.

Scripture is not simply a moral handbook. I think Tim and Mat do get at this. Too much preaching simply picks verses out of context and construct a self-help pitch out of them. All of us can learn to read the Bible better, and afresh. This post is too long already and so there’s no reason to get into questions of biblical interpretation, but one safeguard against wild interpolations or radical relativism is to read it in community, as Tim does point out. All of us will see things in Scripture others miss, and we can help each other on this front as we come together as God’s people to worship him. There is no need to disavow the Bible as the word of God to investigate its claims. Rather, it is because I am confident that God’s words have integrity, that they are true truth, to use Francis Schaeffer’s words, that I am able to wrestle with them and ask honest questions of them. I share Mat and Tim’s concern that the church be a community where we can be honest with each other (and I admit that I all too easily prefer to wear a mask too) and pray that will be the case.

However, I should say that there is a false dichotomy between doctrine and story. As Dorothy Sayers once said: “The dogma is the drama”. The drafters of the Gospel Coalition’s Theological Vision for Ministry has got the balance right I feel. We read "along" the whole Bible, as we take in the whole plotline of God’s story of redemption, climaxing in Jesus Christ and pointing forward to the new heavens and the new earth. But we also read "across" the Bible, understanding that there are propositions found in the Bible and that the Bible holds right believing and right living closely together (eg. 1 John, and contra some in the emerging camp like Doug Pagitt).

We live in a culture that is inherently hostile to the notion of authority. I suppose in a world of corrupt politicians and pedophile priests, that is not surprising in itself, and yet, we should not extend those negative connotations to the Word of God. Mat suggests that it is only "authoritarians-who-don’t-like-to-be-challenged" who would affirm such beliefs. Mat is probably again being provocative and I believe, will agree with me that this is an overgeneralisation. Again, distinguishing between authority and authoritarianism is useful, and as Mat himself notes, we often submit to some kind of authority in many areas of life, as in the skill of the pilot. Jesus shows us how he utilises his authority, by humbling himself to become a man and death, even death on a cross! This is the kind of authority, the kind of leadership that Christian leaders have to aspire to. That God himself accommodates himself to human language also tells us again of a God who desires to be in relationship with his creation.

We also live in a time where words are devalued. When every advertisement markets its product as the best thing ever, it is no wonder good words like “remarkable”, “astounding” and so on lose their meaning. When words are prostituted, we fail to see how important they are as relational capital. I hope I am not guilty of doing the same here! In the meantime, as an antidote to so much verbal diarrhoea, I’ve previously written a more reflective and doxological piece: On the Word as word.

Thanks for indulging me. I’ve undoubtedly said some things poorly, forgot to mention other things and probably been overly pompous. Mat, I hope you will find this fruitful and you can blame Tim if it isn’t! :-p I should say beforehand that I am happy to receive comments but I hope you’ll forgive me if I am unable to reply to them. I also welcome people more learned than me who might want to correct me. Maybe one day I’ll try to summarise this into one accessible post.

Addendum: Bibliography
I’ll be shocked if I had any original thoughts in my post. Well, apart from the chair eg. Here’s the giants on whose shoulders I stand. Warning: bibliophiliac tendencies on embarassing display! And sorry, too lazy to link!

I’ve already mentioned David Gibson’s essay above: ‘For the Bible tells me so?’, found in Encountering God’s word, Philip Duce and Dan Strange(eds.). The other 3 essays in that volume on the OT, NT, and a survey of biblical interpretation is also worth perusing.

Bruce Milne’s Know the Truth is a clear and simple handbook of Christian belief and is rightly popular with many students. It has a good list of further reading suggestions for those who want to go more in-depth. I used this for quick reference, and I think its section on the doctrine of Scripture is very good especially considering its brevity.

Peter Jensen’s At the Heart of the Universe is another Christianity 101 book I like. Unlike Milne’s book, which is organised in a more traditional textbook fashion, Jensen takes a more narrative approach. It has a section on the revelation of God.

Incidentally, Jensen has also written a much bigger theological tome, called, The Revelation of God! Much more scholarly and very insightful.

It’s really hard to find an entire book for the popular level on this issue. N.T (Tom) Wright is one those rare writers that has no problem writing for laity and the academy alike, and his little book Scripture and the authority of God (US Title: The Last Word) is pretty accessible. I don’t necessarily agree with Wright on everything, but this is very useful. For an appreciative critique of this book’s limitations, see John Frame’s review.

Christ and the Bible by the late John Wenham, is the book that first (well, in the 20th century anyway) carefully investigated what Jesus thought of the Bible. I’ve not read it myself, and it’s out of print now, but that’s the one if you come across it.

On canon, I haven’t read either, but the standards are F.F Bruce’s Canon of Scripture and Bruce Metzger’s book, whose title I can’t remember – it has canon in the title somewhere I’m sure.

On the reliability of the gospels. Lee Strobel’s Case for Christ is still a very helpful primer. F.F Bruce’s New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? has stood the test of time. Reinventing Jesus by Dan Wallace et al., which I’ve not read, has been reviewed very positively. Although written in response to the Da Vinci Code, the reviewers all agree that it’s value lies beyond that, and as far as I can tell, although they write for a popular audience, they include more detail than is normal. Greg Boyd and Paul Eddy’s book Jesus: Lord or Legend? treats some of the less common questions, especially on orality and myth. The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig Blomberg is more scholarly if you’re looking for that sort of thing, and if you want something ultra-scholarly, Richard Bauckham, currently at Cambridge, has a massive tome that was considered a bit of a mover and shaker in the academic world: Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.

On reading the Bible better. There are lots of good books that help capture the sweeping metanarrative, the drama of Scripture well. Actually, there’s a book with that very title: The Drama of Scripture, by Craig Bartholomew and Michael Goheen. God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts is a great place to start. Some consider Graeme Goldsworthy to be the granddaddy of this particular genre of books, so you might want to look up According to Plan or The Goldsworthy Trilogy. Arty types would love New Way to be Human by Charlie Peacock.

I like Living by the Book by Howard Hendricks. It assumes nothing, and I suppose for some it might feel condescending, but it helps you be more confident in reading the Bible for yourself. Dig Deeper! by Andrew Sach and Nigel Beynon has a similar aim. On the question of genres, there’s the seminal How to Read the Bible for all its worth by Gordon Fee & Douglas Stuart. Other books on biblical interpretation which I’ve not read include Reading the Bible with Heart and Mind by Tremper Longman, a highly-regarded OT scholar, and Let the Reader Understand by Dan McCartney. My friend said that he found John Stott’s Understanding the Bible a Godsend at a time when he was struggling to read through a particular section of the OT. See, you’re spoilt for choice!

I should mention the works of Kevin Vanhoozer. I didn’t utilise his favourite line of argumentation, those of speech-acts, in my post above, but he is a major figure in the field of hermeneutics. His books, both not for the faint-hearted, are Is There a Meaning in this Text? and First Theology: God, Scripture and Hermeneutics. The latter is too much for me to handle.

On Christian epistemology, that is, knowing how we know, the standard in the field is John Frame’s The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God. Not exactly bedtime reading, this! Another one I deem too tough to tackle at this stage. I am currently reading through J. Mark Bertrand’s Rethinking Worldview, however, and he’s got some very good thoughts on Christian epistemology that isn’t couched in jargon.

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Is the Bible the word of God? (Part 3)

Part 1
Part 2

Christ, the apostles, and the Bible
At the end of his post, Tim connects "seeing the Scriptures as how Christ saw it" with "rediscovering the very essence of the Gospel." Tim, I’m really, really glad you affirm that, because that’s exactly where we’ll be going!

Firstly, let’s consider who Jesus is. In the Gospels, we see the authoritative nature of Jesus’ words: he can cure disease, calm storms, resurrect the dead. He is the Son of God, vindicated when God the Father resurrected him (Romans 1:4). These are the basic beliefs of Christians. Clearly, then, Jesus possesses real authority. Yet Jesus clearly saw the Old Testament as authoritative. In Mark 7, for example, in his debate with the Pharisees over the nature of ritual cleanliness, Jesus refers to the OT explicitly as the "word of God" (v.13). He treats OT history as inherently reliable. So in Matthew 19:4-5, again in answer to the Pharisees who seek to trap him, he answers them: "Haven’t you read...that at the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh?’" He also treats the story of Noah as historical (Matthew 24:37-39). Indeed, he rebukes those who do not affirm the Scriptures of their divine authority. So, in answer to the Sadducees trying to trap him on the question of the afterlife, he says, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God" (Matthew 22:29). In fact, in this very passage, Jesus reverence for the Scriptures comes through clearly, as his response to the Sadducees depends on the tense of a particular verb!

"But about the resurrection of the dead – have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living." (Matthew 22:31-32)
Quoting Exodus 3:6, Jesus emphasises that the Scripture reads : "I am the God..." not "I was their God", and therefore, there is an afterlife! I don't think any of us would want to accuse Jesus of simply being pedantic!

Nor did Jesus ever pit his personal authority against that of Scripture. In John 10:35, in reply to charges of blasphemy, he agrees that the "Scripture cannot be broken" in defending his Messianic claims (v.36-39). Now this is pretty important, because Jesus not only never pits the two against each other, but his own Messianic claims are modelled on OT teaching. So, earlier on in his teaching, he says: "I am the good shepherd" (John 10:14). This doesn’t just happen to be a good metaphor; Jesus is recalling Ezekiel 34 (also Isaiah 56:8), where God himself claims to one day rescue his flock. His Jewish hearers should not miss the implications when they hear Jesus say this! It is the OT that helps us make more sense of the acts of Jesus.

Finally, we see ample evidence that the distinction that red-letter Bibles make simply doesn’t hold true, and there is no need to distinguish between what God explicitly said in quotation marks and the rest. This is shown in how the OT and NT often identify both God and Scripture together. Galatians 3:8, for eg., reads: "The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." (emphasis mine) This is a citation of Genesis 12:3, where it is the Lord talking to Abram (12:1). There is also the marriage example I cited earlier (Matthew 19:4, citing Genesis 2:24). One more example. In Acts 4, we find the early Christians praying and quoting Psalm 2:1-2, attributing it to God speaking.

When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. "Sovereign Lord," they said, "you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
" 'Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers gather together
against the Lord
and against his Anointed One.' (Acts 4:24-26)
What about the NT? Is that inspired? In the Upper Room Discourse (John 14-17), Jesus talks of the Holy Spirit, whom he assures will be with them after he is gone. "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come." (John 16:13). Now we can’t be certain on this text alone, but this might be a hint of things to come, specifically, the writing of what we now know as the NT. In any case, the important thing to remember who Jesus is, and that his promises carry authority, and so we can be certain that the Holy Spirit did, indeed, lead the disciples into "all truth". Interestingly, Paul, in 1 Timothy 5:18, could already cite Luke 10:7 – "The worker deserves his wages" and call it Scripture explicitly, as did Peter regarding Paul’s letters (2 Peter 3:15-16). Paul himself seemed to be aware that what he was writing was invested with divine authority, so for instance, in 1 Corinthians 14, in addressing the controversy surrounding tongues and prophecy, this is how he regards his advice: "If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command." (v.37).

I think it’s worth quoting Tom Wright at length here:

God accomplishes these things [of putting the world to rights], so the early church believed, through ‘the word’: the story of Israel now told as reaching its climax in Jesus, God’s call to Israel now transmuted into God’s call to his renewed people. And it was this ‘word’ which came, through the work of the early writers, to be expressed in writing in the New Testament as we know it.

…The earliest church was centrally constituted as the people called into existence, and sustained in that existence, by the powerful, effective and (in that sense and many others) ‘authoritative’ word of God, written in the Old Testament, embodied in Jesus, announced in the world, taught to the church. This was the heart of the church’s missions (Israel’s story has been fulfilled; the world must therefore hear of it); of its common life (the first ‘mark of the church’ in Acts 2:42 is ‘the teaching of the apostles’); and of the call to a holiness which will express both the true-Israel and newly human dimensions (‘renewed according to God’s image’) characteristic of the new identity.
At this point, let me interact a little more with some of Mat’s points. I think we can see now that we treat Paul (and the other apostle’s) writings as authoritative because that’s how the apostles themselves and the early church treated them. There is no reason to pit Paul against Jesus, as many critical biblical scholars have done in the past century. Paul saw his words as clearly being in continuity with Jesus. Again, let me just cite one eg. One of the most striking features of Romans 12-15 is the number of times he either directly cites or alludes to the teachings of Jesus. I won’t have space to quote them directly here, but here’s a partial list of comparisons:

Romans 12:14 / Luke 6:28
Romans 12:17 / Matthew 5:39
Romans 12:18 / Mark 9:50
Romans 12:20 / Luke 6:27
Romans 13:8 / John 13:34, Matthew 22:37
Romans 13:11a / Luke 12:56
There’s more, but I’m sure that’s enough to establish my point. (with thanks to The Message of Romans, John Stott. Sorry for lack of linkage, am starting to flag!)

Indirectly touching on this issue, and a good read to boot, is Tim Keller’s The Gospel in All Its Forms.

Mat suggests there are only 3 people who could perfectly channel the word of God, and that God does not override the will of anyone (Btw, I don't understand what you mean about them overcoming the "curse sin within their own body"). This is not consistent with the Bible’s own witness. Paul himself reflects on the marvellous grace of God in his own ministry when he says: "But we have this treasure [i.e the gospel] in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." (2 Cor. 4:7). In 2 Peter, a letter about dealing with false teachers, Peter makes the observation that "above all, no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origins in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (2 Peter 1:20-21) The prophets were not making educated guesses (as the false teachers of Peter’s time probably were), they were acting as God’s mouthpiece.

Although Jesus never saw fit to put pen into paper, the early disciples did. Luke makes it clear that he writes as a historian and as a careful investigator.

“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:1-4)
I want to agree with Mat here that the New Testament is at the very least, historical documents. I think they're more than that, of course, but they're certainly not less. The credibility of the Gospels are strengthened when we consider that they were describing events relying upon very early oral and written sources, and that the apostles had little to gain and everything to lose by proclaiming that Jesus was indeed Saviour and Lord if it was not true.

I’m more hesitant to speak on issues of canon as I am not at all well-versed here. But I was interested in the way Rob Bell frames it in the excerpt Tim quotes (which I assume is from Velvet Elvis, which I’ve not read). Tim will have to correct me if I mischaracterise him, but Bell seems to be fairly simplistic here – “oh, the canon didn’t actually exist till 300, by a bunch of guys who voted on it. So, errr, no sola scriptura, folks!” But as I’ve shown from the earlier section, the NT writers already regarded their writings as authoritative and inspired, and key for Christian living. Even the most critical scholars wouldn’t date their writings beyond the early part of the 2nd century. In fact, because of the circulation of Gnostic gospels, the early church was most concerned about which documents were authoritative. (Interestingly, contra the NT documents, the Gnostic Gospels are pretty anti-OT). When the councils finally met, they were merely formalizing what local gatherings of Christians were already affirming. It was the culmination of a period of reflection. Interestingly, as far as I understand it, the Apocrypha was considered profitable reading, much as we consider reading good Christian books today, but it was not considered inspired.

Now, I won’t pretend that answers every possible question, and it’s possible that Bell might disagree with how I’ve just framed the story, but it would be good if he can provide a compelling alternative narrative. It seems to me from that excerpt that he simply glosses over the issue a little too glibly. Btw, there is also a need to distinguish between sola Scriptura and solo Scriptura. The former, which is affirmed by the Reformers, acknowledges the role of tradition, reason and experience in our spiritual reformation, it simply states that they cannot take precedence over Scripture. The latter doesn’t, but too often people think sola Scriptura means solo Scriptura.

Part 4

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Is the Bible the word of God? (part 2)

Part 1

Starting points
Before we even talk about “defending the Bible as God’s word”, however, we need to think through the knotty question of whether this is even possible, and on what grounds we can do so. David Gibson puts it well:

What is it that convinces us that the Bible is God’s Word – is it faith, or evidence about the Bible’s reliability and truthfulness, or some combination of the two? Also, on what basis and using which method can we seek to persuade others of the divine origin of the Bible – by presenting evidence for the Bible’s reliability, or pointing them to Christ, or some combination of the two?
Let me try to put it another way in order to see why this is an important matter. If the Bible really is God’s word, then how can we, as mere mortals, judge it? If it is the ultimate authority, how is it possible that we can bring any external criteria to evaluate it, since that would then set up that very criterion as the ultimate authority? Isn’t God the only person who can authenticate his Word? But if that is so, then how can we hope to establish the credibility of the Bible? Should we even attempt this? Or is there a sense in which evidence can play a role?

Next, we must consider who we are. We are finite and sinful creatures. That means that our knowledge is necessarily partial and clouded. None of us are blank slates either; we all start somewhere with basic assumptions of the world. Think of the child who’s always pestering you with the question: “But why?” If you’re amazingly patient (and insightful!) you might indulge him until you reach the point where you can only say, “Because it just happens to be like that!” Those would likely be what many would call our ultimate beliefs. Therefore, our starting point is simply not one of an independent, disinterested, adjudicator. If we’re Christians, we believe that, God, in his mercy, has revealed his great plan of salvation in the gospel of grace and that the Holy Spirit has removed our blind eyes to see and accept this. In other words, we actually start from the position of faith and not of empirical evidence (that doesn’t mean we won’t get to the latter, as we shall see). Furthermore, we accept that God now has authority over all over lives, and that the authority of Scripture is shorthand for "the authority of the Triune God, exercised somehow through Scripture." (Tom Wright, emphasis in the original) We believe that the Bible is the Word of God because God himself attests to it.

The immediate objection is the charge of circularity. Isn’t this just a convenient get-out clause? Gee, you don’t sound much different from those ultra-fundamentalists: The Word of God is the Word of God because it says so! Again, we must remember that because we are arguing for an absolute authority, it follows that we need to appeal to that absolute authority. This is true of every system of knowing. A rationalist can only argue for the primacy of reason or logic by using reason or logic. Empiricists can only argue for the primacy of sense-experience with an appeal to sense-experience. Actually, I’m pretty sure Mat will agree with me here, he even happens to defer to his dad! :)

Is there no place for evidence then? Are we building our houses on sinking sand? The above position does not discount the use of evidence. Let me give 2 examples, one my own and one from Gibson (since I’m not sure if my example is a good one!). I know right now I’m sitting on a chair. Now I can verify this: my eyes tell me I’m doing so, and my bum is enjoying the comfort of the cushion. But there is a sense in which I just know I’m on a chair without all those verifications. Furthermore, I am not just expressing a proposition, but in a personal way, I am making a commitment to this truth that I am actually sitting on a chair, by choosing not to believe that I am dreaming and embodied in the act of actually sitting on it. The evidence supports my belief, but it doesn’t necessarily prove them. So I am actually, in a sense, making a faith commitment without discounting the place of reason.

Gibson says that if somebody were to ask him why he believes his wife loves him, he could simply reply: “I just know it”, or that he knows so because his wife has told him so. Either would not be an inadequate answer in itself. He does not have to give substantial or material evidence beyond the testimony of his wife’s word. However, Gibson could and would happily provide any amount of material evidence, by listing his wife’s attitude, actions, words, gestures, gifts and so on. Yet there’s a sense in which, not for lack of evidence, but rather, the reality of the relationship which ensures that he “knows”.

This is true of the Bible as well. In recent times, as a positive byproduct of the Da Vinci Code hoohah, there has been a lot of good work done to demonstrate the reliability and sufficiency of the Bible (I’ll list some of these works at the end of this series of posts). It’s important that we know that there is good reason to believe that the manuscript tradition of the Bible is reliable, or that archaeology has been consistent with the Bible, or that prophecies foretold in the OT were fulfilled. Paul himself "reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks" (Acts 18:4) and "proving that Jesus is the Christ" (Acts 9:22), although he is also clear that ultimately, it is the gospel that "is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes..." (Romans 1:16). In evangelism, we can appeal to such reasons, but we can’t ultimately argue anyone into faith; only the Holy Spirit can convict. Reasons can be aids, but they’re not the clincher, so to speak. Jesus himself says, "If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own" (John 7:17). Now that’s what we call throwing down the gauntlet!

There’s obviously more that could be said, but hopefully, with this brief treatment, I have sufficiently demonstrated the overarching framework within which we must consider how best to show that the Bible is the Word of God. I hope that I have shown that our starting point is God’s revelation and his grace, not us playing Simon Cowell over the Bible armed with some sort of external criteria, and how faith and evidence both play a role. As you’ve probably noticed, I’ve depended heavily on David Gibson, whose essay ‘For the Bible tells me so?’ is available here, as well as in Encountering God’s Word, Philip Duce and Dan Strange (eds.) That’s where you should go if you’re not satisfied, for a better and more indepth treatment.

I haven’t explicitly interacted with Mat’s post thus far, so let me pause for a moment here and do so. Firstly, I do think that Mat begins with the wrong starting point. I hope I’ve shown why beginning from a position of scepticism is problematic when we are considering questions of ultimate authority, without needing to lose our brains in the process. I have no wish to downplay the problem of biblical contradictions, nor do I wish to overplay it. IMHO, I think the vast majority can be harmonised, so long as we clarify what we mean by inerrancy and/or infallibility, eg. we take into account genre etc. I think Mat overstates his case here, although I want to acknowledge that there are indeed some genuine difficulties. However, I can live with not knowing the resolution to every question I have. Also, and I speak as a fellow self-absorbed sinner, may I suggest that in your fifth point, i.e Bible is boring, therefore this makes it unlikely to be the Word of God (and I understand that you were being a little provocative here), that this is too flippant an attitude to take? In effect, you are saying, I get to judge what the Word of God should be like; it’s about me, myself and I. I’m not saying that the Word of God is boring per se, but that we don’t get to determine what it should be like.

I understand that there are parts of the Bible which are tough to get through. I’m trying to get through the Pentateuch for my quiet times atm, and today I had to read Deuteronomy 21-23, which is basically a list of all sorts of laws. I did want to hit the snooze button! But as I read through the list, I begin to see how comprehensive it all is. It touches on issues of marriage, family relations, social justice, ritual cleanliness, even building regulations! Then I recall that a big emphasis in the opening chapters of Deuteronomy is the oneness of God and how he has rescued his people in the Exodus. And so, as I read through the laws, I begin to see that this list shows how God is the Lord of all of life, and also his concern not just for the big things but also the little ones. And so I can praise God even for the boring bits of the Bible. (For another amateurish attempt at reflecting on a piece of Scripture commonly found to be boring, you might want to read my exposition of Matthew's genealogy.)

Part 3
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Is the Bible the word of God?

As is obvious from recent inactivity on this blog, I’ve been rather preoccupied outside cyberworld: parents, getting ready to move etc. All the same, Tim has (sort of) asked me to respond to a post by one of his pals asking this very question. Having had a look, I felt immediately overwhelmed! Those are big big questions, and it seems to me that it’d take a while to disentangle all the various issues and assumptions, and they each in turn deserve substantial replies. The blogging format just isn’t ideal for this task, and in any case, I don’t consider myself having the knowledge or wisdom to do justice to them.

With those caveats in place, I will tentatively venture into the savage grasslands with some thoughts and observations. (Pray that I’ll return unharmed! :->) Quick briefing before heading into the wild, however. On an autobiographical note, my struggles as a Christian pilgrim on this journey called life have often been on the moral/ethical/relational side rather than intellectual, i.e daily battles with sin, loving others etc. I have more or less felt comfortable with the intellectual moorings of Christianity, although I also believe that’s simply a subsidiary rope, at most, that secures people into faith. I did feel a little apprehensive about how my Christian faith would fare in the crucible of Oxbridge, but as it turned out, my faith grew much stronger during the university years. However, the one exception is the doctrine of Scripture. The Bible? Authoritative? Inerrant? Revelation from God? And how about them French dudes (and that German eccentric mumbling about armies and metaphors)?

This is something I continue to have to grapple with, and maybe writing this will help me clarify some of my own thoughts. Maybe. Apologies in advance as I’m gonna be pretty essayistic, not ideal for the blog! This isn’t just an intellectual exercise, however; it has implications for how we view the world, help each other as Christians and in day-to-day living. I’ve really been helped here at my current church to see the importance of a high view of Scripture and its centrality in pastoral work as well. The Word of God is key not just at conversion but in growing as disciples (eg. Col. 1:6). I’ll try to unpack why that is in what follows. So I think this is too important to simply be ignored or left in the land of the esoteric. Also, what little I’ve read in this area has given me confidence that evangelical theologians are doing robust work to rearticulate the traditional doctrine of Scripture in fresh ways. So I am content to follow Tim Keller’s counsel to “doubt your doubts” even as I seek to be both honest and faithful.

Sorry for the long preamble but hopefully that will convey a little of where I’m coming from. I hope what follows may be in the spirit of Romans 14:19 – "Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification"! Here’s a basic outline of where I’m going: I’ll try to summarise Mat’s post along with some general observations, hopefully representing him fairly, and then rather than try to respond point-by-point, I think it would probably be better if I restate and defend the Bible as God’s Word and interact with Mat (and Tim’s) post along the way, all the while keeping in mind Spurgeon’s famous remark: “Defend the Bible? I’ll sooner defend a lion!” Scripture doesn’t really need me to defend it, if it’s God’s word, it can do so perfectly well on its own. Finally, I’ll say some stuff on what this might reveal about the state of evangelicalism and also pastorally. There will be points where I will cite Scripture quite a bit, where I do, I’ll try not to clutter up too much space but at the same time try to put quotations in their context. I will link all Scriptural quotations which will open up in a new window so you can look them up if I don’t quote them in full.

Mat’s reflections and challenges
Mat is not a fan of red-letter Bibles, and neither am I, although having said that, my pocket Bible happens to be one! I think they’re unhelpful because they communicate an unnecessary distinction between God’s words and implies a “canon within a canon”. Pastorally, they can be damaging, as I think might be the case here, since many people end up with mistaken notions of the Bible. However, to be fair, when red-letter Bibles were first printed (quite a recent invention, at the turn of the 20th century), the guy who printed them did so not because he was making such distinctions but simply because he wanted to draw attention to the symbolism of Christ’s blood, which he was particularly struck by. It was simply an editorial decision, just as chapter and verse numbers and section headings in our Bible are editorial decisions (remember, those aren’t inspired either!). So on one level, it’s not a big deal.

But as I read Mat’s opening paragraphs several times and tried to understand what he was getting at – and I’m still not entirely sure I get his point – I see that Mat has different reasons for his antipathy towards them and consequently, the claim that the Bible itself is the very Word of God. Let me try to succinctly state his case.
  1. Red letter Bibles imply a distinction between God’s word explicitly spoken, that is, by Jesus, and other words.
  2. Why? Do we have, in Mat’s memorable quip, a "God-of-the-Red and God-of-the-Black?" And why quote God specifically when he’s talking the entire time? (The implied rhetorical answer here seems to be: “well, he isn’t!”)
  3. Typical Christian reply: “Well, those words, you know, the one not coloured in red, i.e not spoken by Jesus, is inspired by the Holy Spirit”. So the whole Bible is still the Word of God.
  4. Mat’s retort: eh? What about those contradictions? If you’re saying there’s none, well, conversation’s over ‘cause I definitely think there are and we have to face up honestly to them.
  5. The rest of Mat’s post builds on the above. If there’s distinctions as above and contradictions in the Bible, why bump up Paul’s words to the status of God’s? The only words worthy of elevating are Jesus, and maybe Enoch and Elijah, but we don’t have their words. And what about the canon? Besides, God’s wordzzzzz...
Mat might be aware of this and simply chose not to highlight it, but as I read through his post, I was also struck that his take on Scripture is fairly Barthian/neo-orthodox, nicely summarised in the line: "Let’s take it as a word ABOUT God, not the word OF God...". Karl Barth, arguably the most influential theologian of the 20th century similarly held that the Bible was not God’s revelation per se, but a witness to his revelation, although he also insisted that when a person encounters the Bible, it becomes the Word of God. Barth believed that it was impossible for human language to hold God’s words, which is a position that Mat also argues (though with some modifications, since Mat argues that 3 people could perfectly channel the word of God). Barth also believed his view of Scripture better safeguarded God’s integrity and his “otherness”, and I notice Mat also perceives his proposal as upholding the reputation of God and Christianity better by robbing those that seek power and control of their power, as it were, and as a way to maintain intellectual coherence by sidestepping the question of biblical contradictions (“this claim harms Christianity much more than it helps.”) So I wonder if Mat has been reading Barth himself (in which case, I can only fall on my knees and cry: “How unworthy am I!” :-p) or been reading/listening to Barthians. I also draw attention to this to show that Mat’s proposal is not completely novel, the understandable appeal of Barthian views, and that subsequent critiques of Barth’s views more or less apply to Mat’s views as well. We’ll come back to this later.

Part 2
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